» Ten years of blogging: 2003 ¦ What You Can Get Away With

I never made any great plans for this blog when I started it. Its origin stems from me spending three months travelling around the US in 2002, and then – in those days before I knew of sites like Flickr and its descendants – deciding to get myself a website to show off some of the photographs I took on that trip. While I was sorting out all the photos, I decided that my website should also have one of those blog things, and discovered that I could achieve all that through Blogger. So, I did.

I’m not setting out with any grand plans to change the world, or become the internet’s most respected authority on any subject. It’s just going to be pure unadulterated me, which means it’ll jump around from subject to subject without any warning, will contain the very occasional deep insight into life hidden among thousands of words of meaningless rambling and the occasional rant about something that happens to be annoying me at the time. Plus, of course, there’ll be links to various things I discover on the web, to justify calling it a blog, but they’ll probably all be things that everyone else found days, months or years ago. Whatever I can get away with posting here, really.

As mission statements go, I think I’ve lived up to that over the past ten years, haven’t I?

(The odd thing is that in my memory I started doing the blog and everything else on a Saturday afternoon, but according to the site and the first post, it began on a Thursday)

While the content of my blog remains the same, that’s not how it always looked. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I can see the original layout of the site, which is a lot better than the one I ended up with. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to think the grey-and-green colour scheme was a good idea, but the only reason it’s lasted is because that’s what my Blogger settings were when I finally switched to WordPress in 2005.

It’s been interesting looking back at the posts I wrote back in 2003, and choosing a sample of them. Blogging in the days before Twitter, Facebook, G+ and everything else was very different, still clinging to its roots as link collection and web logging, so many of my posts were just ‘here’s an interesting link’.

But there was more to my blog than just the odd link or two and within a couple of posts I was impugning the intelligence and integrity of a member of the Cabinet which was the start of a number of posts about the build up to the Iraq War. To prove that things do change, that included me quoting an email from a Lib Dem leader approvingly.

In the ‘it’s a small world’ category, I appear to have written a post that mentions Steven ‘Enemies of Reason‘ Baxter in passing long before he opened a blog and became Anton Vowl, then himself again.

Not long after that I noted the lack of British political blogs and other places to talk British politics on the web. I look around today, and ‘be careful what you wish for’ comes to mind.

Meanwhile, the Tory party was tearing itself apart with battles between right and left. This was the 2003 round of that perennial argument. We never did find out who the ‘two Tory MPs who are about to defect to the Lib Dems’ were, though.

Here’s my first time asking ‘why don’t we have a British version of The Daily Show?’ Ten years on, and still no answer.

Sadly, the website I linked to that explained how James Cameron’s films were all being made to appease his Freemason masters is no longer on the internet. I’d love to have seen how they’d have explained Avatar as a metaphor for the fall of Atlantis and the split between the good and evil masons.

In a post about The West Wing, I appeared to believe that the Republicans couldn’t be captured by the radical right. Back in those days, even the most hardened political obsessives hadn’t heard of Sarah Palin (and most people outside of Illinois would have had no idea who Barack Obama was).

If I’d never started blogging, I’d never have been able to write “The end of the world is predicted by a Hebrew speaking carp in New York.”

I also got to write this little rant when a Tory gimboid accused Liberal Democrats of hating Britain, freedom and god knows what else for daring to oppose Mr Blair’s Iraqi adventure. And even though it was borrowed from elsewhere, I still love that last line.

I did spot the beginnings of Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign – and then decided that Wesley Clark entering the race was a more important development. My political prediction skills were as good as they’ve always been.

When I started blogging, George Galloway was a member of the Labour Party. That does seem a long time ago.

Looking through old posts, I discover I was into things I completely forgot about, like this post on my watching of 24, where I realise it’s actually a remake of Captain Scarlet. There were also a lot more posts about football, and Wolves making it to the Premiership.

With the sort of thing that can get you arrested now, I wrote about the sex drives of teenage boys, based on my personal experience of having been one.

Anyone else remember Armando Ianucci’s Gash?

Here’s a little moment of history – my first ever mention of Colchester local politics comes in this post as part of a local elections liveblog, noting that the Lib Dems have gained 2 seats. If I remember rightly, I think one of them is Lesley Scott-Boutell getting elected in Stanway for the first time and the other is Martin Hunt returning to the Council by winning Christ Church. Ken Jones held Castle for the Liberal Democrats, and four years after that, his seat would be the one I was elected for. On the same night, Iain Coleman became Britain’s first blogger elected as a councillor.

Sentences I’m not likely to write in 2013: ‘Rod Liddle has an excellent column

Back in 2003, we were still discussing whether London should bid for the Olympics. It seemed such a distant and unlikely prospect at the time that I don’t recall there being much blogging about it by anybody, mainly because I think we all assumed there was no chance we’d get it. Of course, around the same time I was also discussing the mayoral candidacy of Simon Hughes as though he had a chance of winning.

More quality prognostication as I discuss who’s going to be the new permanent host of Have I Got News For You. It was obvious that this guest hosts thing was just a passing fad, wasn’t it?

2003 was a very different place. Back then, people were discussing what lessons Big Brother had for politics, and how would politics embrace the power of the blog. Very odd to remember the time when Big Brother was a social phenomenon, and not just part of the reality TV production line. It was also the year when Twenty20 Cricket was a new phenomenon too.

Looking back, I’m finding lots of parallels and lots of differences, but it seems that even back in 2003, people couldn’t tell the difference between the EU and the Council Of Europe. However, also back then, 52% of British voters backed an EU Constitution as well. Meanwhile, the Church of England was in danger of splitting over gay bishops.

Just like today, supposed ‘progressives’ were trotting out the old canard that a government could invoke ‘national security’ and not expect any dissent. Good job we’ve got Liberal Democrats in government now and that doesn’t happen, right? Back then, though, Lib Dems got abuse for being illiberal, and supporting totalitarians and anti-semites, so we do have some progress.

After about six months of blogging, I had a massive 10,000 total visits.

“The prime role of the web has been to de-isolate nutters and make them think they’re normal.” was one of the key messages I took away from the night when a bunch of bloggers had a meeting in the House of Commons. Though the Orlowski quote at the end of the article may be more relevant in how things have gone since then.

It took until July for me to mention Bob Russell for the first time. Shortly after that I got described as a ‘fairly innocuous and well-meaning blog’ by the Guardian.

This exercise is a great way to rediscover trivia you’d completely forgotten about like Iain Duncan Smith’s novel and some bloke from the Green Liberal Democrats starting a blog.

Interestingly, around that time, UK Sport started talking about the possibility of a British cycling team that might be able to challenge at the Tour de France in future. My post doesn’t mention Bradley Wiggins or Dave Brailsford – possibly because I didn’t know who they were then – but does mention the somewhat ridiculous idea that such a team could lead to a British rider winning the Tour de France.

And having pointed out his bad prophecy skills in 2003, I should point out that my attempt to ‘unmask’ British Spin was woefully inaccurate.

In what’s not yet turned out to be an ironic twist, I was contacted by a time travel spammer.

Oddly, back then it seems bloggers didn’t discuss by-elections that intensely. Or we all thought that Brent East was a safe Labour seat and there was no way it would change hands. However, I also thought £2.65 a pint was expensive beer.

Great moments in British blogging history: Matthew Turner’s copy of Simply Red’s Stars is offered as a competition prize for the first time. (This became a running joke on a few blogs, with no one ever actually claiming the prize) The other prize that week – being MP for Brent East – was, of course, won by Sarah Teather.

A momentous announcement about Doctor Who was made – and I gave it just a few lines. It’s a reminder that the proper re-ignition of my Who fandom didn’t really start until the closing scenes of The End Of The World. I also appeared to think that Eddie Izzard would have made a good Doctor.

Remember that, according to George Bush, “Free nations don’t develop weapons of mass destruction.” (And see Chris Lightfoot’s follow-up to that post)

I think this may be the first blog post calling for Boris Johnson to be Tory leader. Ahead of the curve, for once. (This was around the time IDS was defenestrated by his party)

Apparently, I first blogged about National Novel Writing Month in 2003, though I didn’t attempt it for the first time until 2006.

The problem with dead links is that I’m now wondering what the 25 albums that should not have been recorded were, and which three I own(ed). Just like ten years ago, though, Google has the answer.

I’m linking back to this post purely because I love the sentence “Verhoeven envisioned Total Recall II: The Minority Report as a whiz-bang, action-packed, “theological-philosophical challenge” to the Calvinist concept of predestination.” They don’t make films like that any more. Not in this universe, anyway.

And with this, my 2003 in blogging came to an end. Tune in tomorrow for a look back to 2004.

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